Turkey wants German comedian prosecuted for explicit poem on Erdogan

The Turkish government wants Berlin to criminally prosecute a German comedian who recited an explicit poem that insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on German public television, sources close to the government told dpa.

Jan Boehmermann, the irreverent host of late-night talk show Neo Magazin Royale, fuelled a diplomatic spat between Germany and Turkey when he read a poem lampooning the Turkish head of state as "a professional idiot, cowardly and uptight" - among other things - on March 31.

During the broadcast, Boehmermann expressed support for another satirical TV programme, broadcaster NDR's Extra 3, that made fun of Erdogan's authoritarian policies during its March 17 show and prompted Ankara to summon its German ambassador.

He then read the explicit poem as a tongue-in-cheek demonstration of what constitutes "abusive criticism" under German law, saying pointedly as he addressed Erdogan and the audience, "this would not be allowed."

On Sunday, the Turkish ambassador in Germany sent a diplomatic note to the German Foreign Office demanding Boehmermann be prosecuted, according to sources close to the government, confirming a report carried by Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.

The German government plans to carefully examine the diplomatic note's contents and decide how to proceed with Ankara's request, according to the sources.

Public prosecutors in Mainz are already investigating Boehmermann and public broadcaster ZDF to determine whether the poem violates a law that criminalizes insults against representatives of foreign states, according to Attorney General Andrea Keller.

In an open letter to the comedian in Sunday's edition of German newspaper Die Welt, the head of German media giant Axel Springer hailed Boehmermann, calling his poem "priceless."

"I laughed out loud," Axel Springer chief executive Mathias Doepfner wrote.

Boehmermann was named the winner of German television's prestigious Grimme Prize for another act of satire that went viral in 2015. The comedian had then claimed he faked a video of Greece's then-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis giving the middle finger during a talk in Zagreb.

Last update: Sun, 10/04/2016 - 21:02
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